Composure catapults Raider confidence

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Southridge sophomore Kadie Dearing hoisted a shot over Jasper’s Elisabeth Ahlbrand in a matchup of county rivals Saturday night in Huntingburg. Dearing scored nine points to help the Raiders to a 43-41 overtime triumph. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

HUNTINGBURG — Southridge coach Greg Werner says he’ll go to battle with his girls any day.

And for 36 minutes, that’s what Southridge and Jasper did Saturday night in Huntingburg. The rivals battled into overtime after Jasper forward Elizabeth Verkamp banked in a two-footer to tie a game the Wildcats trailed by five points less than a minute before.

Two free throws in OT from both squads knotted the score at 41, and with three seconds remaining Raider sophomore Kadie Dearing lofted a 12-footer from near the free throw line that bounced off the front of the rim. It looked as if another five minutes would be needed.

Until the youngest player on the court, freshman Kendyl McKeough grabbed the rebound and put back the errant shot as time expired. Game Raiders.

“It boosted all of our (confidence), but hers confidence (as well),” Raider guard Kayla Voegerl said about McKeough’s game-winner. “We tell Kendyl all the time that even though she’s a freshman, she’s the same as us. We’re a family.”

That family pulled off a 43-41 win that required a 16-point run from 10 down in the fourth quarter. Southridge (1-1) took down a county rival with a starting five comprised of four sophomores and one junior. It was a win by a group Werner said is already displaying the mental prowess well beyond its years.

“It was just an outstanding, outstanding effort out of the kids,” Werner said. “I’ve always been proud and pleased with the composure. We drill them every day and they have to be mentally tough because we get some kids that might get a little upset, or might show a little emotion. We’re learning to cut those emotions out on the floor and I think the kids are becoming stronger.”

That strength was on display as the Raiders entered halftime down one after Jasper, held scoreless in the first quarter, used eight points from Elisabeth Ahlbrand — who the led the Cats with 12 points — to pile on 17 in the second and gain 17-16 advantage.

The Wildcats kept the pressure coming in the third, outscoring the Raiders 11-4 in the first seven minutes before Kayla Voegerl knocked in a 10-footer then buried a 3-pointer as time expired in the quarter. Still, the Wildcats entered the fourth with a 28-24 advantage.

Voegerl, who couldn’t find any rhythm during a 1-for-13 shooting performance in the Raider’s 54-29 loss to Class 3A No. 10 Princeton on Tuesday, sank her first four shots of the second half and finished with 12 points.

“I just knew we had to get crucial points to get back in the game,” Voegerl said.

Those critical points didn’t come again until later, after Ahlbrand and senior Brooke Lueken used some heady work around the basket to push the Wildcat lead to double digits.

But a Jasper squad that limited itself to a modest five turnovers in the first half unwound in the fourth as Southridge unleashed a press that led to three straight turnovers as the Raiders rolled off a 16-0 run. Southridge gained the lead when Dearing (nine points) scored on a putback. With one minute remaining, Southridge led 39-34.

But Maddison Ubelhor resuscitated the Cats by sinking a 3-pointer. Aubrey Main, who led all scorers with 15 points, missed a free throw on the ensuing possession and Verkamp banked in the tying score to force overtime.

Jasper (0-2) has twice lost on the last possession of the game, but coach Ryan Erny is still confident in a team he said needs to sharpen its situational play. The Wildcats host Evansville Memorial on Saturday.

“We could very easily be 2-0,” Erny said. “We just got to be a little smarter with some of the things toward the end of games. ... I think we took some that shots that were ill-advised. They weren’t bad shots, but where we were at in the game situation, being able to go to the free-throw line, we have to make better decisions and that’s a learning process. We have to get better at decisions throughout close games, and you only get better at that by being in close games.”

The Wildcats struggled from the field, shooting 24 percent, but did hit half of their eight 3-point shots. Ubelhor and Lueken finished with 10 points each, and Jones added five.

For Southridge, the win arrives in the second game of a brutal four-game streak that shifts Tuesday to two-time defending Class 2A state champion Evansville Mater Dei (ranked No. 2 in Class 3A). Friday, the Raiders host Evansville Bosse (1-1), which won 18 games and a sectional title last winter.

“We needed the boost of confidence (and) momentum for the fact that it’s a tough stretch. That doesn’t mean we can’t win them, but we have to get better in this four game stretch,” Werner said. “If they’re that motivated for Jasper, they need to be that motivated for every game. … If they do that, they’ll put together three and a half quarters and we’ll get to four by the end of the year. And that’s going to be the key.”

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